Mom’s Maryland Crab Cakes

In Maryland crab is served with everything, including breakfast cereal

The secret to a crab cake is crab. The best crab cakes have almost nothing else in them except for spice and something to bind them together. The only crab to use is lump meat, not back fin and never imitation. Of course 100 percent lump crab meat is really expensive, hence most recipes have a good amount of filler to stretch out the crab.

My mother believes in less filler more crab and so we only have crab cakes on special occasions like Wednesday. (Hey, it is a really special day.) Below is her recipe.

Maryland Crab Cakes

  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • 6 tbsp bread crumbs
  • egg
  • 4 tbsp mayo
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes cayenne pepper sauce
  • salt/pepper/Old Bay to taste

Mix everything except crab in large bowl. Add crab meat and mix well. Form into five cakes and place on baking tray dusted with cornmeal. Refrigerate for an hour. Over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. Dredge crab cakes in bread crumbs and fry until browned and done, flipping once, about six minutes a side.

Speaking of crabs: SportsGlutton had this great recipe recently for crab dip on pretzels as part of his NFL recipe series. If you haven’t been following along, go there and check it out. We’ve been following along even though the likelihood of actually seeing an NFL game on in our house is as slim as finding imitation crab in our freezer.

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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97 Responses to Mom’s Maryland Crab Cakes

  1. Carolyn Chan says:

    You know I have never had crab cakes and always hear about them. I think this weekend I will take a stroll down to my local market to see if the fish man has any crabs and give this a try ! Could you please let me know what you mean by “lump meat”? Thanks !

  2. nrhatch says:

    When we lived on Deal Island (across the bay from Annapolis), the crab boats plied the water every day and we loved getting fresh jumbo lump crab.

    When I felt too “lazy” to make crab cakes . . . I would just saute the crab in butter with a sprinkling of Old Bay and pile it on toasted buns. YUM!

  3. A_Boleyn says:

    I’ve never tried crab cakes either but have heard good things about them and the ones above look tasty. :) What else do you serve them with?

    By the way, no need to badmouth fake crab legs … there are good brands out there and they’re terrific in California rolls and seafood chowders.

    • Sometimes we’re just snobby about certain things. We all have our vices. We just had this with a simple remoulade, a salad and some potatoes.

      • A_Boleyn says:

        I wish real crab were more in my budget (you know the old cliche about having champagne tastes on a beer budget) though they do have live ones at the chinese grocery store. :) I’ve never had the nerve to buy them, or live lobster when I see them for that matter, and pick my own crab meat.

      • We were deadset on getting a bushel and oh wow were they expensive. I think it was $160 for a bushel. The meat was still pricey, and a big treat.

  4. TasteFood says:

    I am so picky about crabcakes and prefer them just like this. Little filler and lots of crab. Period.

  5. M l Wehunt - Write2Live2Write says:

    Now you’re talking! Trying this weekend…..I’ll bet they’ll be delicious

  6. I bet your Mom is a wonderful cook. These look so good. I agree with her about the filler. Have not made them in ages. Now, I will have to make some.

  7. onewomaninaricefield says:

    Oh man…I think I just died and went to heaven. Hello this weekend’s recipe!

  8. This is a wonderful recipe, with it’s scant 6tbsp of bread crumbs. I’m going to try this.

  9. Kristy says:

    Keeping this one in mind for when we hit Maryland! I’m with your mom – more crab, less filler! Less filling, tastes great…oh wait… ;)

  10. Your moms recipe is wonderful. I just love a family recipe and I agree with her.. I would prefer more crab as well. I had salmon cakes this week, now it’s time to have some good ol’ crab cakes. These just look delicious.

  11. ChgoJohn says:

    I like how your Mom thinks. Of all the crab cake recipes I’ve seen — and I’ve seen quite a few — this is the first one that is actually a crab cake and not a bread crumb cake. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Is there anything that could be subbed in for the mayo? I love crab cakes, but I just can’t stand mayo!!

  13. That’s a sound philosophy of your mother’s, which many restaurants would do well to follow. The crab cakes look fantastic. When you say “lump meat”, are you meaning that you buy a whole bunch of crabs, or that you buy tinned crabmeat?

    • In Maryland, the shops will sell you live or cooked crabs or meat they’ve shelled and picked that day. We bought the fresh meat that had been picked. I think a bushel of crabs was going for $160 that day or something!

  14. I LOVE crab meat – I cannot understand why that imitation stuff is even made – yuck!
    Your mom has it right – mostly crab and little else for a crab cake.
    Question though – why 5 cakes and not 6? 3 for your dad and 2 for her?
    Have a happy weekend. :-) Mandy

  15. Charles says:

    Hehe, you and your “Old Bay” :D You know, I never had crab cakes and I just *never* order anything out which says “crab” on it because 999 times out of 1000 it won’t actually be crab at all but Surimi which not only fills me with rage because it’s blatantly NOT crab, nor does it taste anything like crab, but it’s filthy, obnoxious and downright disgusting! I had some crab once before and remember it being absolutely delicious. I should try making these again if only I can find some real crab meat first! :)

  16. kat says:

    Yummy! I love how chunky it is!

  17. fatisrecipes says:

    I may have tried it without knowing, but what does tarragon taste like??
    Do they also use it for some meat recipes like roasts?

    • It’s a bit licoricey, but also more complex. It’s great in sauces for seafood or herb butter. Katherine made a tarragon herb butter on my birthday with filet mignons that were crusted in dried porcini powder. Soooo good.

  18. Sissi says:

    I have heard about crab cakes many times, but have never seen such appealing ones! (Less filler is also the religion I practice). Please, tell me I can use canned crab meat! (It’s also expensive, but at least I can afford it and it’s available…). I have an American shop in my city and am proud to say I can even use Old Bay (I saw it).

    • Just make sure it’s a really good lump crab meat. We’ve used some down here for crab dips that was lump crab meat from the Chesapeake Bay and it came in plastic containers. Haven’t made crab cakes except when we’re up north.

      • Sissi says:

        Thanks, Greg. I will start with the medium-prices I have at home now and if proves awful, I’ll buy the most expensive brand.

  19. I will have to venture out on all fronts…venture out to eat crab, venture out to make this, venture out to talk with the seafood man at the market to be sure I’m getting the right thing, and venture out to get some,. Thank you for adding to my adventures this weekend. (I’ll do this in reverse order of what I listed btw…)

  20. SimpleP says:

    Absolutely, less is more with crab cakes. Those look perfect! Doin’ Maryland proud :)

  21. Oh, I want to make these! But that means waking up at 6am on a Saturday to get to the fish market… oh crabs, think I might just have to do that tomorrow.

  22. I concur…less filler always equals more in a crab cake. Well done to mom for a delicious looking recipe and a tremendous thank you for the shout out to my recipe and the entire NFL series!

  23. spicegirlfla says:

    I totally agree, crab cakes should be about crab!! I’ve used different herbs; but had not tried tarragon. That sounds really good; looking forward to trying it. Just wondering how you serve these; with a sauce or just lemon??

  24. SO funny, I just did crabcakes on tuesday night and was in heaven but honestly yours looks way better! Boy, they look so fresh and flavorful. Will be trying your recipe next time for sure!

  25. Judy says:

    My hubby loves crab cakes. I have found it is the combination of the crab cakes with a really good sauce that makes the difference for me, he loves them either way. This recipe looks wonderful, may just surprise him with it.

  26. Stef says:

    It must be crab week; another blog I followed posted an “all-crab” crab cake dictate a few days ago: http://nolawildandprecious.com/2011/08/30/the-only-way-to-make-crab-cakes/

      • A_Boleyn says:

        Now the post linked above confused me with the terminology used. Specifically this sentence.

        “Ideally, the crab meat should be jumbo lump. All back fin. No claw meat.”

        I guess to this point the only way I classified crab meat was claw versus body meat. And now it seems that within the body there are subclassifications. I guess dark claw meat
        sort of compares to dark meat on a chicken or turkey while body meat is white meat with lump being similar to the tenders on the chicken breast … I think. :)

  27. I must make these for Ritchey – he loves crab cakes – and these sound devine!

  28. Rachel says:

    I guess I’m a snob, but I think krab (as opposed to crab) falls into the “processed cheesefood” gray area. I hear there are folks who love it, but me, not so much True crab cakes, though, sign me up!! Mmmm…

  29. egg me on says:

    I’ve been craving crab cakes! And these look awesome. Love anything with Old Bay. And Worcestershire for that matter. Great stuff as usual, Greg.

  30. Sush says:

    Yum, definitely going to give this one a try! I love your use of cornmeal, that crunch you get on the outside of the cake is unbeatable!

  31. Wonderful, wonderful! Haven´t eaten crab since the last time I was in the UK where they have great crab fishing on the south coast (maybe in other parts too, that´s just the bit I know). Am going to be over there in a month so will have to see if I can get hold of some lovely, lovely crab!

  32. Looks really tasty and simple to make!

  33. chuckcotton says:

    I always hesitate when I see “Maryland” crab cakes – but its good to see you are from Maryland. cheers.

  34. I’ve never had crab crakes probably because it’s so expensive. I’ve seen the imitation crab but that just looks gross to me. Maybe one day I’ll splurge and try this recipe, I bet my oldest son would like it!

  35. short poems says:

    Wonderful recipe.

  36. Eva Taylor says:

    I wonder if canned crab would work in this recipe? We love crab cakes – this recipe is so pure, it makes me want to make them tonight!

    • I’m not sure where you live, but my concern with the canned crab would be the quality and water content. Some places like Whole Foods sell some in refrigerated plastic cartons. Those would be better. But those are not cheap either. Just look for lump and something that was packaged in the Chesapeake Bay area and you should be good.

  37. Caroline says:

    Oh how I love crab cakes…oh how I hate restaurants that skimp on the main ingredient in the dish. Some of the best I’ve had were in South Carolina. I’ll definitely be ordering them again next time I’m at our place. This recipe sounds awesome though. Great seasonings. :)

  38. Love the pure crab crab cake – delicious! I saw a chef recently used shrimp as a binder in a crab cake recipe and it is just not my thing.

  39. ceciliag says:

    Oh I LOVE these, so simple. But where do I get crabs out here! POO.. I love crab cakes.. (sad face) .c

  40. I’ve never been a fan of crabcakes, but this recipe could change that. I will have to try it. Peace, Linda

  41. ambrosiana says:

    I totally agree with you on the fact that the key to this recipe is good crab, and your mom’s ethics on this recipe is the way to go. I am really grateful to you because this is one of the hardest recipes (a good recipe I mean) to find on the web ..and I just found it!!

  42. Karen says:

    I think crab cakes are so delicious. If they are on a menu, I will always order them. I was thinking about making them the other day until I remembered that I had to through out my crab when we lost power for so many days. Yours look perfectly cooked and now I have to go and buy crab.

  43. Your mom is so right, mostly crab…only the good stuff. Around here, believe it or not, I can get a large of shelled lump crab meat at Costco for a reasonable price so you may want to check there if you have one close by. I have been pleasantly surprised and happy with the quality of the crab. My local fish market is my favorite place to get crab but sometimes the budget needs to go for the canned variety (the grocery store canned crab sucks…so please don’t get that and blame it on me).

  44. Correction to my previous comment…”A large CAN of shelled lump crab meat”.

  45. I have never had crab cakes but I hear about them a lot
    Your mum’s recipe sounds amazing..I think I may have to check for crab meat soon..it may just convert me to a seafood lover

  46. Joanne says:

    I totally have to agree with your mother’s views on crab cakes! True, lump crab meat is more expensive, but it’s like cheese. You can’t cheap out and get the crappy cheese, you have to spend a little bit more to get the good stuff! But it’s totally worth it.

  47. Leah says:

    This recipe looks amazing! What I love about it is it doesn’t contain all the veggies. Not that I have anything against veggies, but I don’t like them in crab cakes. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  48. Mary says:

    I am deffinately going to try this one, except I’m going to use the fresh dungeness we have here in the good ole’ Pacific Northwest. My only question is, do you use the whole 6 tablespoon of breadcrumbs in the cakes and then extra for dredging? I really don’t like a “bready” crab cake and this looks perfect for me and I don’t want to wreck em. To clarify, the “lump” meat is from the body of the crab, vs the claw meat etal. The body meat is a little milder and much more delicate, yummy! At least that’s how we designate it here anyway. It could be different back east.

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  50. Karen says:

    Oh man, I am HUNGRY after looking at all these great dishes! Would love to visit every one of these restaurants.

  51. Christina says:

    Oh yeah! Now we’re talking! I love crab cakes! Those recipes with lots of fillers are just wrong. This is how they should be made…with lots of crab. :)

  52. Jenny liu says:

    Wow! looks so delicious! two, please!!!

  53. Stefanie says:

    Mmmmmm, I love crab cakes! Yours look so good! Love the minimum filler :)

  54. rsmacaalay says:

    We have a similar recipe like this but since its expensive like you said we use eggs as well but the way we present it is placing them on the top shell of t he crab. I have a post of that coming soon.

  55. Colleen says:

    I love love love crab cakes and this recipe looks pure and amazing. I think I’ll have to make this (and that crab dip!) sometime very very soon!

  56. ....RaeDi says:

    You and Katerine will know what I speak of when I say that my travels are by the food from the area…. Maine Lobsters, Maryland Crab-Cakes, Louisiana Shrimp, Northwest Dungeness Crabs and the list go on… your crabs look incredible and make me want to make a trip to Maryland and have some blue crab cakes (it is the blue crab?) ….RaeDi

  57. Yuri says:

    I always see crab cakes recipes and photos but I don’t think I’ve ever had them… Very strange since I live on an island and we have a lot of seafood around.

  58. Kevin Wray says:

    This sounds great! I LOVE crab cakes!! I have never made them, though. I will try this sometime. Any particular beer or wine go well with crab cakes?

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  60. I absolutely LOVE crab cakes. Will have to try your recipe…soon!

  61. randommanda says:

    My mouth is watering!
    I am a total crab cake snob – and it looks like you make them just like I take them; only lump crap, some spice and a tiny bit of something special to hold them together (I prefer just grain mustard). It’s really hard to find an awesome crab cake these days, as everyone has some generic version on their menu.

  62. At the risk of repeating myself, these look incredible. You’re making me hungry at 10:30 in the morning.

  63. Leo Cotnoir says:

    As one who lived in Maryland for more than 30 years I must chide you on one point: crumbled saltines are usual, not bread crumbs.

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